Less, with all its stream of consciousness rambling, exquisite use of language, psychoanalytical text, is ultimately a novel about love. Love lost, love gained, love showered on someone, love made and love wasted. It traces the journey of Arthur Less, a gay author who is turning 50 and whose lover has left him to marry someone else.
Less is sad but does not want to accept it. He does not want to attend the marriage as well. Instead, he takes a tour around the world accepting invitations to events that he would not have attended normally. They include an interview with an arrogant author, a writing class, an award function, a writing retreat and a food review assignment.
His mind is still going on thinking about his life, his 50 year long life, living in the shadow of more famous partners, more handsome partners. Living on the fringe, not being known, a life of humiliation as he sees it. Or is it? Less is a journey in exploring the midlife anxiety where everyone starts thinking about the life they lived for a long time. Has he made any difference? Has he lived a good life at least for himself? The language reflects the anxieties of Less, it mocks the literary culture, its own narcissistic agenda and bloated sense of self-importance. It rambles like Joyce and is recursive in the vein of Borges. It gets boring, becomes interesting again and then gets trivial and important alternatively.
s it worth reading? For the plot, no! A big no! Some people may feel its an ego trip, a book written by a writer for other writers. For the love story? Yes, the language is subtly romantic, the love that exists in subtle glances, the bored mundanities of having a coffee together, tired love, decadal love rather than glorified love-at-first-sight. The self pity, the self doubt, midlife anxieties and heartbreak is dressed in a humorous, self-mocking language that becomes very slow at times. Slow enough for you to feel like flipping a few pages. But the toil is worth it, much like the incident of the protagonist reading Proust’s masterpiece. It deserves the accolades but makes you work hard for the same.
A solid four stars for this.